1. A piece of a valuable mineral or minerallike substance that has been cut, polished, or otherwise prepared for use as an ornament.
a. Something that is valued for its beauty or perfection: a little gem of a book.
b. A beloved or highly prized person.
3. A muffin, especially a very small one.
tr.v. gemmed, gem·ming, gems
To adorn with gems.
[Middle English gemme, from Old French, from Latin gemma; see gembh- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.